Private Family Mass - Our Lady of the Mount (Warren, NJ)
Funeral Mass and Celebration of Life
Obituary of Thomas Aquinas O'Dea, Sr.
With tears in my eyes and love, I submit the following:
-Kenny (on behalf of my family)
Mom; Mark; Tom/Donna and Declan; John/Irene and Connor & Sean; Ken; Chris/Chieko and Luca & Maya; Danny/Carol Lynn and Patrick & Brendan.
Thomas Aquinas O’Dea, Sr.
Born - 7/3/35 - Hornell, NY
Ascended - 1/14/21 - Basking Ridge, NJ
From County Clare, Ireland Dad’s relatives immigrated to the United States in and around the coal mines of Central, PA. Dad was the youngest of five born to Frank & Agatha (Keating) O’Dea after they settled in Hornell, NY. The family moved to Rutherford, NJ as Grandpa O’Dea was promoted with the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. Early on, when Dad was seven, he learned about Service during the early years of the 1940s when he watched his older brothers join WWII. In the Spring of ‘45, at age nine, he learned about Sacrifice as the Marines stormed the beaches in the Pacific and his brother Jimmy gave his life at nineteen.
Dad attended high school at St. Mary’s Catholic School and learned about Life and Family. Frank, his oldest brother and Paul (#3) were there to protect him and help him with his stuttering. Mary Helen, his only sister, was with him too. Aunt Margaret was a special part of his life, coming to live with Dad to help raise him when his Mom fell ill. He graduated high school in Spring of ‘53.
Using his brothers’ examples, Dad served his country with the National Guard at Ft. Dix, NJ. Accepted to Seton Hall University, he graduated in ‘59. Just months before graduation, GOD stepped in when Mary Ann (Branon) asked Tom to the Tea Dance at St. Elizabeth’s College. Mom enjoyed a wonderful year with Grandpa Frank while dating the love of her life. It was a year later that Dad lost his father but learned again about Family. His brother Frank and wife Mary took Dad in to live with them. Dad now had nieces and nephews to fill his life. Jimmy, Timmy, Frank, Eileen, Mary Ann, Danny and Maureen. The 2nd floor back bedroom still stands at 67 Sunderland Avenue in Rutherford, NJ, where Eileen & Scott Koen live now caring for that wonderful, old house.
Dad & Mom were married, right there in Rutherford, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, just blocks away from each other’s childhood homes on May 27th, 1961. Father Bob Langdon came into their lives then. He would be such a special connection for the next 55 years. Dad’s new in-laws, Dr. Mark & Helen Branon were such a loving and strong force in his life. He started his 33 year career with MetLife Insurance and learned how to juggle 6 kids in 9 short years while moving to Clifton, Rutherford, Chester, Watchung and then Warren, NJ. What had seemed like marital bliss those first few years, exploded to a house full of boys and new opportunities with MetLife and all our sports and activities.
It was throughout the late ‘60’s and into our middle school and high school years in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s that we saw what Dad had learned and who he had become. J.O.Y. - (Jesus, Others, Yourself). He basked in our successes and comforted us in our struggles and was always “Present” as my cousin Liz so graciously told us this past week. Stories we recently shared reminded everyone how special Dad was:
He showed up for us; BECAUSE of us; because it mattered; because he cared!
Off in the distance, on a football or soccer field, on a baseball diamond or basketball court,
Dad was there.
On a Tuesday...In a trench coat....In the rain.
Being married to a Branon meant another Irish family to “entertain”. Pop-Pop and Tankey II moved in with us after Dr. Mark retired in 1975. In that Watchung house, 128 Washington Rock Road, we now had 10 of us! Holidays were spent with Mom’s brother, Uncle Mark and Aunt Sally and Ryan, Brendan, & Elizabeth in Princeton, NJ. We shared so many Thanksgivings and so many Christmases together eating wonderful meals and telling stories about our lives. The Princeton Branons have meant so much to Dad. Their love and support has been a true blessing. For the O’Deas, The Fourth of July meant cookouts with Dad’s brother Uncle Frank & Aunt Mary, Uncle Paul and Aunt Ann, and Aunt Mary Helen and Uncle Bob. For us, it was a chance to play with our cousins.
When Dad retired from MetLife in 1992, Mom & Dad made a move south to Palm Coast, FL which started another chapter in their Love Story. With Faith and their new Church they immediately made lifelong friends and invited all that could make it to visit them in sunny Florida. Many in our family, our extended family, and Dad & Mom’s “northern” friends made the trip to see them over their 18 years in Palm Coast and Jacksonville, FL. Branons, O’Deas, NJ friends, people looking to buy a house from Mom; ALL stayed at 6 Cooper Court. A real estate agent that lets potential home buyer’s kids swim in your pool while you show them houses? GENIUS, Mom! They flew the coup in 2010 and returned to Basking Ridge, NJ to be closer to their grandkids and old friends.
Basketball was Dad’s favorite sport to play. He would tell you, then graciously show you, his set shot. He would back you up towards the hoop, stop, use one hand to fake towards the left and then spring back to the right, square up, and shoot that famous jump shot. He loved that move! He loved playing basketball with us. He was born a Dodger Fan, but when ‘them Bums’ left for California, Dad set his sights on Mickey & Yogi & Elston Howard and passed down his love of the Yankees to all of us and now his grandkids. He could talk to you for days about Notre Dame and always asked if we saw the game on Saturday. He was so proud to be IRISH, so proud to be CATHOLIC, so proud to have a LARGE FAMILY (both Branon & O’Dea).
Gifted with the art of storytelling (an Irish trait), he never wrote a book, but his stories kept you wanting more. His jokes always had punch lines, but never any swear words. His eyes were soft and kind. He was humble. He had a smile that warmed you inside and a patience that had no end. Mom and Dad centered their life around God. Full of Faith, Respect, Love, Kindness, Forgiveness and Service. Faith and Love drove them and taught us how to act. How to treat others. How to include Family at every chance you get. Talk to someone who is related to us or knows our Dad & Mom and I guarantee that a story will emerge about how; “Late one night” or “I was stranded” or “I was sick and needed comfort” or “Can you be here tomorrow”.
Make no mistake, the story of our Dad started before that Tea Dance, but it got much more interesting, fun and valuable after he met Mary Ann those 60 years ago. This is a LOVE STORY! A Love Story sixty years in the making and for an eternity going forward. GOD & the Holy Spirit entered their lives long ago and they saved each other. They gave each other a Life. They gave us a Life. And Dad gave his Life to everyone.
And it was this past week, after fighting pneumonia with his last breaths, but holding on for Mom to be with him at the Hospital, that GOD took Dad to the place he had been Learning about, the place he had been Praying about, the place he had been Living his life about. GOD took Dad to Heaven for eternity. Dad, you won the race. You came in 1st. You showed us the path to Heaven. You showed us how to meet you there, so we can all be together again!
Tommy. Tom. Dad. Mr. O’Dea. Pop Pop… You are not gone, you have gone to God.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Our Lady of the Mount Church, 167 Mount Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059 Church Link
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
- (John 15:13)
(This is an excerpt from the famous poem, and it reminds me of my Dad)
“...But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times in my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed you the most, you would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
AN IRISH BLESSING
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May GOD hold you in the palm of His hand.
We, the Higgins family, for over 135 years and four generations, have been privileged to serve the families and the community as a whole with professional service and personal attention.
752 Mountain Blvd
Watchung, NJ 07069
Steve Szczubelek, Manager